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Maximising storage through the year


A renewed focus on effluent management has spread across the country. 1,600 farmers attended the Effluent Expo at Mystery Creek late last year. Record fines have been handed out this year already with examples in Cambridge, Gordonton and Taranaki, indicating that the tolerance of regional councils is decreasing. The tolerance of other farmers is decreasing rapidly too. And no consumer of milk expects poor environmental management.

An effluent pond

So, it gets sorted. In goes a lined pond, in goes some concrete, in go some big new pumps and maybe even a new irrigator with remote control. The capital investment is significant and once completed it feels like the effluent is now under control. The new storage is a great way to ensure effluent is stored to be used at the right times.

Have you ever noticed full or nearly full (or half full even) effluent ponds on dairy farms around this time of year? It is not technically wrong at the time nor is it uncommon. The challenge arrives through winter and spring when workloads are high, and stress and fatigue are equally high as a result. Keeping ponds from overflowing often becomes the yardstick for effluent management at a time when calving and mating are the higher priority. And the result? Effluent applications at times when soils may not be able to cope.

A farmer recently said to me

“a full pond is not a pond.”

Their key message? Without the pond managed correctly throughout the year it still ends up being a risk in the business. And the bigger the pond, the bigger the risk. No one likes paying for a slurry tanker bill in August when there could have been more February irrigation, right?

This is why it is important to maximise the opportunities to irrigate when Regen recommends to do so. Taking these opportunities will ensure risk is minimised ahead of the (typically) wetter time of year. With many farms now shifting to low application methods (e.g., pods or sprinklers) it is even more important to get ahead early as it takes significantly more pumping to shift the pond level to the target volume.

Regen Effluent Dashboard

Pond management is about more than ensuring daily compliance: it requires thinking about the entire year. It is important to view the pond volume in relation to the monthly target volume, rather than just ensuring it is “not overflowing” on the day. The new Regen effluent dashboard allows a rapid review of effluent management and highlights the required actions to get back to target pond volumes.

Effluent investments don’t often have spectacular ROI however they are crucial for offsetting risk in dairy businesses. Empowered people and confident decision-making create a much lower-risk environment which ultimately frees up time and energy to focus on factors that drive profitability. Or whatever you choose, just not effluent!

Speaking of which, Regen currently uses pond level on most pond graphs and over time we will transition to pond volume graphs in the app. We believe pond volume is a better metric as pond level can change faster or slower at different levels compared to volume. For instance, we recently examined a farm where the pond level was 60 cm from the freeboard level. While it appeared nearly full, due to the sloping sides it was only 60% full, meaning that there was still a large amount of available storage.

Joel Hensman